Obscure Bible phraseology help, please?
January 11, 2004 6:38 AM   Subscribe

Daniel 6:24 uses the phrase "or ever they came at the bottom of the den." I haven't been able to find any explanations about what that particular phrase means. Does anyone have any insights?

My best guess is "before they reached the floor of the den," but that could be way off.

I'm interested in this verse primarily from a language point of view, rather than just finding out the meaning. Does anyone have any other insights into the phrase "or ever"?
posted by oissubke to Education (5 answers total)
 
Here's another translation (NIV): "At the king's command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions' den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones."

And another (CEV): "And the king ordered the men who had brought charges against Daniel to be thrown into the pit, together with their wives and children. But before they even reached the bottom, the lions ripped them to pieces."

I don't know what the original Hebrew reads, but I'm guessing these two translations are clearer than the KJV that you quoted. KJV sounds beautiful, but it's not the most precise or clear translation.
posted by marcusb at 6:53 AM on January 11, 2004


This or has nothing to do with the conjunction; it's the same word as ere (and related to early), with divergent developments from Old English. It's been obsolete for a long time, but kept in the general consciousness by the KJV and Shakespeare ("I doubt he will be dead or ere I come," where ere = ever as in your Bible quote).

marcusb is right: The KJV is one of the glories of the English language and I love reading it for its own sake, but if you want to know what's actually being said, use a modern translation.

Incidentally, this part of Daniel is in Aramaic, not Hebrew; there's an interesting analysis of linguistic switching in Daniel here.
posted by languagehat at 8:04 AM on January 11, 2004


I looked it up in DH's interlinear Hebrew bible based on KJV, and apparently that phrase "ever they came" is actually one word in the original. I guess that is the closest the KJV translators could come to it, and we also need to remember the idioms and some word meanings were different in those days.

Yes, that is a awesome translation in a literary sense, but how many people know, for example, that "conversation" means "way of life" in the KJV? And so forth..

I have been told that the best study translation is now New American Standard. But we have King Jimmy here too cuz our reference books are based on it.
posted by konolia at 11:31 AM on January 11, 2004


Thanks all. The "or ere" connection helped it click for me, since I knew that term from Shakespeare, but I guess I wasn't firing on all cylinders this morning. :-)
posted by oissubke at 12:14 PM on January 11, 2004


According to the SAB, it's this:

6:24 King Darius, after trying to feed Daniel to the lions, orders those who accused Daniel (and their wives and children) to be cast into the lion den. "And the lions ... brake all their bones in pieces."

HTH! :-)
posted by shepd at 4:09 PM on January 11, 2004


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